Retailers in the home furnishings industry are operating in a state of panic. The question “How can I improve furniture sales” is asked early and often in every conversation. As an industry, we often zig when our customers go to zag. It’s not often we’re staying in sync with our consumers. But it’s not for a lack of effort. Today most of the furniture retailer’s focus is on the multi-front battle they’re fighting every day. The average retail store owner is wearing many hats. An owner, accountant, salesperson, marketing manager, customer service rep, delivery driver, and other less appetizing roles.
It’s no wonder that home furnishings retailers can’t move strategically and proactively in front of their consumer trends. There just isn’t time. That’s why so many of the pain points we hear from these retailers, our partners in the home furnishings industry, are focused on fast-acting recovery. This state of panic isn’t sustainable. That’s why we have guidance for these retailers, maybe it’s you, to answer your question: how can I improve furniture sales in my business?
1. Cater to the Connected Shopper
The connected shopper. This terminology is becoming more prevalent in the home furnishings industry. But other retail industries have been experimenting with the connected shopper strategies for decades. We know that more home furnishings shoppers, not just the Millennials, are spending time online to make shopping easier. They’re looking for reviews to help them make the right choice on product. They’re shopping around for the best prices on products. Sometimes they just want to make the transaction faster by purchasing right from a website. Connected shoppers are tied to any channel at any time.
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The beauty of the connected shopper is that they don’t care where they shop: online or in-store. They just want to have freedom over which channel they’ll use for shopping. Yes, they want access to every channel. But not to use every channel all the time.
That means your connected shopper needs your website to be available for browsing. And your store to be open for experimenting. Oh, and your social media to have up-to-date information about your promotions. And your YouTube channel to have designers showing the best ways to style certain types of furniture. And your Google reviews to have recent customer feedback about shopping in your store. Your brand literally needs to be available with information all the time. So how do you cater to the connected shopper to improve furniture sales?
2. Show More Products for Connected Shoppers
Product Catalog Data. Make sure you have products on your website. That may seem arbitrary advice. But take it from the experts who’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of furniture websites with no products shown. If you’re one of those retailers who isn’t showing a single product or a very limited selection, you’ll want to read this article about valuable product descriptions.
You need more products on your website that have descriptions, dimensions, photography, and good SEO. Every product gives you another chance to come up on the Google search results for a specific item. Imagine a shopper is searching for a tufted navy velvet sofa in Google. The product page they find on the first page of Google has a great opportunity to not only attract that shopper but close the deal immediately. Because your product matched her needs exactly. That is just one example of the power of product data on your website.
3. Start Pricing Products Online
Whether you’re ready to start selling online or not, this is for you. In the last year at every furniture Market we attend, this is the number one topic of conversation. Pricing has been a challenge for home furnishings retailers. Where do you start? How can the manufacturers help populate pricing automatically? How will pricing improve furniture sales in my store? Let’s break this down.
Situation 1: You’re ready to start eCommerce.
Pricing is the first step. When we work with the most successful retailers, we implement a pricing strategy. Don’t set a goal to price every item in all 40 of you catalogs within the first year. Start slow to stay sustainable. Your shoppers aren’t going to find the value you put into a full-scale pricing project.
Spend the first year pricing your most popular items, clearance items, and your private catalogs. Use your advertising and marketing to promote products that have pricing. This will start to improve furniture sales. It will start to educate your customers and new shoppers about your pricing on products online. Then you can start adding a cart to your website and work with an eCommerce consultant like MicroD’s eCommerce team to set up logistics and other financial options for customers.
Situation 2: You’re not ready for eCommerce.
We’ve heard a lot of pushback from retailers who are afraid of pricing products online without a cart. When clients see your products with pricing, your fear is getting shopped by another competitor. In reality, if a customer is going to shop your products, it would happen with or without pricing on your website. The advantage of pricing products online is simple. You’ll open the door to improve furniture sales from shoppers who come to the store ready to buy.
4. Attract More Millennials
Millennials are the first generations to be fully connected shoppers. That means you need to pay special attention to Millennial behavior. When you’re trying to improve furniture sales business, it’s not about solving a revenue problem today. It’s about finding revenue lift opportunities in the future. They may not be your target buyer today. But Millennials will be the key to your furniture sales tomorrow.
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Millennials will give you all the information you need to make their experience unique and personalized. And they expect all of this to happen online. Before any in-store visit, if an in-store visit happens at all, Millennials will spend the first stages of a buyer’s journey online. That means doing research on search engines like Google to find products that would satisfy their immediate need. Because Google search results are such a competitive landscape, Millennials know they’re going to find exactly what they need in the first few results on the first page of Google.
Successful retailers are replacing television ads with YouTube ads; radio ads with podcast sponsorships; newspaper ads with Google ads; and Facebook ads are the new highway billboards. The ways we communicate and attract shoppers has transformed to be more data-driven so retailers can identify the return on investment.
5. Help People Find Your Store
Would you be surprised if we told you that the majority of furniture shoppers still want to make a visit to the physical store? Over 50% of shoppers, in fact. So if shoppers want to be in your store, why aren’t they there? Truthfully, maybe they don’t know where to find you. If you’ve been paying attention over the last year, you’ve heard talk about “Local SEO” — probably a lot of talk. In many cases, you likely heard it in a furniture Market seminar from MicroD’s Ken Widger or at the Furniture First symposium from the same.
Local SEO has been a major roadblock for so many retailers in the furniture industry. Catch up and read the blog about local SEO here. If you haven’t checked your local listings, it’s important to start there. We offer a free local business listing scan on the website. It’s free and takes less than a minute to find out your results.
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Once you know the areas to fix, find a partner and start working. You’ll want to create an ongoing project once you’ve cleaned up the listings. Local Listing management is something that you need to have eyes on often. It’s like a credit report. You want to check on your report to make sure there are no inaccuracies and submit fixes when you see them. Doing this will help your store show up with the right information in search engines–which will help customers navigate to your store.
6. What is Your Tilt?
Here’s what is truly spectacular about the home furnishings industry. Every retailer is unique. Yes, many retailers carry similar brands to another retailer. There may be dozens of retailers carrying the exact same brands and offering the same type of services to the same type of target shopper. However, every single furniture retailer is unique. Each of you has a tilt. A tilt in the content marketing world is that one thing that makes you different from everyone else.
The challenge is in finding your tilt and sharing it. If you already know what your tilt is, congratulations! Are you using that to your benefit? Is it propelling your brand’s online presence to a new, revenue-generating level? If it’s not, it should be. If you haven’t found your tilt, spend the time to be introspective and define it. Get your teams involved and decide together. Once you find your tilt, how can it improve furniture sales?
7. Improve Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is about sharing your tilt. That one thing that makes you different should drive all of the content, design, and marketing in your business. At the 2018 WithIt Professional Conference, we asked retailers what was the biggest challenge in brand marketing. Their answer was the online presence. This industry is full of multi-generation stores or new niche showrooms. Their brand awareness has been well-known offline for decades. How do you translate that online?
- Social media
- Website homepage
Engage your sales team to share your brand vision. Every person in your store is a walking billboard. If you can empower your teams to be excited and share engaging content about your brand on their social media channels, your brand footprint becomes wider and stronger. Incentivize each team to come up with a “Meme of the Month” or a “Weekly Design Tip” that can publish on your social media channels.
Plus each salesperson can share it with their social channels. The person with the most reposts or in-store visits from the post gets a bonus for the month. Find ways to encourage your team to share content from your website. It will improve traffic and reach your ideal audience without spending extra money on advertising.
It’s difficult to put away the panic and focus on the future. Especially when there are so many issues to fix now. But with the right roadmap, you can find a way to improve furniture sales today and set yourself up for success tomorrow. The Millennials and connected shoppers will continue to change the way retail is most effective. In as much as we can predict, it is important to build a sustainable plan for the future. Stagnant, traditional methods are never going to be as effective as they once were.
That’s why digital marketing and a strong omnichannel strategy will improve furniture sales for your business. The wider your footprint online and offline, the stronger your business. MicroD is the leading web technology provider in the home furnishings industry. With our expertise, we can help you find out where you are on the roadmap for sustainable retail success and build a plan for your future. Learn more about how we help retailers navigate the shifting industry and improve furniture sales through eCommerce and digital marketing.